Iowa’s Charlie Jones records 100-yard kickoff-return touchdown on Senior Day

The senior went from goal line to goal line with 3:20 left to play in the first quarter of Iowa’s win.


Grace Smith

Iowa wide receiver Charlie Jones hurdles over Illinois defensive back Christian Bobak during a football game between No. 17 Iowa and Illinois at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Illini 33-23 at the last home game of the season. (Grace Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

Charlie Jones just needs some blockers and open grass ahead of him.

The Hawkeye senior got both of those things during a kickoff return on Saturday afternoon in a 33-23 Iowa victory over Illinois.

With 3:20 left in the first quarter, the wide receiver and return man from Deerfield, Illinois, caught a James McCourt kickoff at the Iowa goal line, cut left at the 10, picked up a couple blocks, and scampered down the left sideline untouched for a 100-yard kickoff return, which tied a school record.

“I knew I had a great block to my left,” Jones said postgame.  “I was able to cut inside and then I saw guys blocking downfield so it was just me and some grass and guys, were just working along the way. The guys on that unit are special and they take pride in what they do. They really make me look good out there.”

The return sparked the Hawkeyes, who had been scoreless to that point and were trailing 10-0 after giving up a 75-yard scoring drive, and mishandling a snap on a punt attempt that led to an Illinois field goal. 

“It was electric,” quarterback Alex Padilla said of Jones’ return. “That’s kind of the only way to describe it. And we needed that because, you know, down 10-0, that’s not really ideal that soon in the game. But yeah, electric. Charlie did a great job, guys blocking did a great job … It was awesome.”

Jones recorded his first kickoff-return touchdown as a Hawkeye — although he did take a punt to the house last season — in what could be his lat game at Kinnick Stadium.

Jones, who transferred from Buffalo in 2019, has taken a long and winding road to senior day. Jones was a scholarship player at Buffalo, redshirted his first year there, played the next season — tallying the third-most receptions for the 10-4 MAC runners up — and then decided to transfer to Iowa City, without a scholarship offer.

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“Being an out-of-state kid, it was tough,” Jones said. And leaving Buffalo, leaving a scholarship, I knew it was gonna be tough. My family obviously supported me with the decision.  It definitely wasn’t easy at times and I can’t thank them enough for giving me this opportunity to be here.”

Because of transfer rules at the time, Jones then sat out the entire 2019 season, his second missed season in the last three. But in the last two seasons with the Hawkeyes, the 2021 preseason All-Big Ten First-Team selection has done his best to make up for lost time. 

Last season Jones was named an All-American honorable mention as a return specialist and an All-Big Ten first-teamer by Phil Steele. Jones averaged a Big Ten-leading 10.5 yards per punt return in 2020 good for 11th in the nation. 

His good play earned him a scholarship in December, 2020. 

This season, he has handled almost all of the kickoff and punt-return duties and seen many snaps at wide receiver. Jones has three receiving touchdowns on the year and 251 receiving yards on 16 catches. 

Jones has returned 55 punts and kickoffs this season. 

Jones has not decided on whether or not he will take advantage of his extra season of eligibility and return to the Hawkeyes next season.

“I am having a blast, I’m having a lot of fun,” Jones said.  “I think this team and this group is really special. So I think I just have a lot of thinking to do. But,  I’m in no rush to leave. I love this team. I love the opportunity I have. I love the guys. So if coming back is what I gotta do, and I’m all for it.”

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